Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

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‘I received my commission as captain to-day with rank from September 23, 1863.”–Diary of Josiah Marshall Favill.

January 8, 2014

Diary of a Young Officer–Josiah Marshall Favill (57th New York Infantry)

January 8th. General Hancock, who rejoined the corps a few weeks ago, went home to-day, not being able to stand the worry and fatigue of camp life. Warren takes over the command again and is likely to remain with us all winter; compared to Hancock, he is decidedly a light weight, although a good soldier and engineer officer, but lacks dignity and force of character. He is a great card player, and with certain of his staff spends most of his leisure time in playing. He is slight, dark, good looking, but dull and uninteresting. General Hancock, being an ideal looking soldier, any one almost succeeding him must suffer, at least in our eyes, and this is to be remembered.

I received my commission as captain to-day with rank from September 23, 1863. We are all enthusiasm, preparing for a brilliant social season; amongst other ventures we have started a newspaper; “Our Camp Journal,” edited by Lieutenant L. D. Burch, Twenty-sixth Michigan, and it is to appear every week. Local matters, of course, will be its chief resource, but the lieutenant is bright and proposes to review the general situation whenever in the mood. To show the ability of the writer and the range of subjects, I shall transcribe a few of the leading articles. Here is his first gun, “Speaking of the army of the Potomac. If there is one army of this half century, to which posterity will accord greater honor than to any other it is the army of the Potomac. There is not an army of history even that may produce a record of so many great battles, so much loss of life and limb, so many rapid, extended and fatiguing marches, and such extreme trials of human endurance as this same Potomac army. The Potomac army has been opposed from first to last by the choicest troops of the confederacy, under command of men confessedly its ablest generals, and indeed among the best of their time.”

“It is generally conceded that Virginia troops have given the most stubborn resistance to our advance of any in the rebel service. Besides this, the Potomac army has fought an army always its equal; generally, its superior in numbers, with the vast advantage of a defensive warfare in a region made up of the strongest natural defenses to be found upon the continent.

“An officer of high rank recently from the Western army, on a visit to the Second corps, remarked in our hearing: ‘I am only surprised that an army invading such a country has not been wholly destroyed. These jungles of pines, cedars, and brambles, bottomless roads, interminable ranges of hills, with an endless succession of rivers and “runs,” which make up the topography of Virginia, render even ordinary military resistance hard to be overcome; and then, too, it has repeatedly been forced by the inexorable demands of an excited, half frenzied, and exacting public opinion, to fight the enemy in his stronghold, against the judgment of its commanders.

“‘Their first movements have resulted in unfortunate failures, out of which came many criticisms, calumnies, and indignities from the press, the rostrum, and the public, not to say the people, but in the midst of which the noble army has marched on, fought on, and suffered on, through a succession of campaigns, such as would blot from the map of Europe half its old principalities and powers, still unshaken in its faith in the final triumph of our arms, still unshorn of its strength to fight and win the battles of other campaigns.

“‘Fighting on the vast plains of the West, with the advantages equally distributed, is quite a different thing from dislodging an enemy from a chain of continuous natural and artificial defenses, covering an area of sixty thousand square miles. For the present, we are content to believe in the men and their leaders, who upon the plain of Gettysburg fought and won the grandest battle of the century, saved the fortunes of the republic, and are calmly watching and waiting by the Rapidan the coming of their last campaign.'”

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